Putting PreventionDSS to Work
By Barbara Shine
Alan Zeuge, a prevention specialist at Spokane County Community Services in Washington State, has found the PreventionDSS useful to his work.
Prevention Specialist Alan Zeuge, M.P.A., a relative newcomer to
Spokane County Community Services in Washington State, said that
the PreventionDSS (Decision Support System) funded by SAMHSA's Center
for Substance Abuse Prevention (CSAP) has already proved "extremely
valuable" to him. Mr. Zeuge oversees 11 state-funded prevention
services contracts for the county, providing technical assistance
and liaison to community partners in such areas as substance abuse
prevention, violence prevention, and child advocacy.
When one of his contractors came up with a problem he couldn't
solve, Mr. Zeuge contacted the Western Center for the Application
of Prevention Technology (CAPT), also funded by CSAP. CAPT staff
took him through the DSS on the Web and helped him find what he
The project is "HOPE for COAP"—Healthiness Offers
Peaceful Enjoyment for Children of Addicted Parents—headed
by Julie Wokasch, M.Div., at Colonial Clinic in Spokane. It provides
substance abuse prevention services to children growing up in homes
where one or more parents are chemically addicted, a serious risk
factor for these children. Major project objectives are to reduce
the incidence of early onset of drug use by the children and promote
a healthy lifestyle.
"The intervention strategies used by HOPE for COAP include
mentoring, individual and group counseling, education/awareness,
and community outreach. Our challenge was to find pre- and post-test
materials that would closely measure the project's intended outcomes
in terms of modifying the children's risk factor profiles,"
said Mr. Zeuge.
Working online and by telephone with the Western CAPT, Mr. Zeuge
and Ms. Wokasch started searching the system for models of pre-
and post-test questions about risk factors for early drug use to
help gauge HOPE for COAP's progress. Working through the "Library"
and "Evaluate Programs" modules, they looked for measures
like 'age of first substance use' and other risk indicators.
"But the DSS guided us to expand the queries," Mr. Zeuge
said. "We found we needed to measure not just risk factors,
but protective factors, too. The program led us toward bolstering
protective factors, and it pointed to scales for measuring elements
like parent-child bonding. We queried the system for tests that
focus on values—things like attitudes toward illicit drug
use and other deviant behaviors, such as shoplifting—and a
half-dozen instruments came up for possible use."
There is one caveat to Mr. Zeuge's enthusiastic endorsement of
the DSS: "Because there's so much good information and it's
so easy to access," he said, "planners need to be careful
not to just take the offered examples at face value. You have to
look also at models available in the community and the experience
and preferences of your colleagues. Then make the most of what the
DSS recommends by tailoring it to your specific needs and objectives."
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